Nancy Roman

The Smartest Person

Dad, in France, 1945

My father died this past Christmas.  Yesterday was his birthday.  He would have been 89.

My Dad was a man of great intelligence and corny jokes. As an engineer of precision gauges, he had a PhD mind and a high school diploma.

He sang dumb words to old songs. “It had to be stew.  Meat and beans wouldnt’ do.”

He was a true war hero; he fought in the Battle of The Bulge during World War II.  And although he was proud of his service and loved the army, he hardly ever mentioned the two purple hearts that were stored in the attic.

He was good-looking, and I think in his younger days, he was well aware of it. (I look just like him. But that’s not bragging; handsomeness in a man doesn’t necessarily translate to female beauty.) He was perpetually cheerful. He woke up happy. I never heard him swear, and what is more amazing still–I never in my whole life heard him speak an unkind word about anyone.

On Father’s Day a few years ago, after two martinis, he said that having children was the best thing he ever did.

My mother was the advice-giver in the family. I wrote about her wonderful wisdom in “Beyond Clean Underwear-Advice From Mom.”

But my father gave me a few words of advice too. Very practical advice.

–   “When you drive at night, keep your eyes on the shoulder of the road. You’ll stay in your lane, and you won’t be blinded by the oncoming cars.”  Thirty-eight years later, I still drive this way.  It works.

–   “If you need a really big favor, go right to the top. People with only a little bit of power are often stingy with it. People with lots of power don’t have anything to prove. They can afford to be generous.”  Just try this next time you need a week off to help a family member, or an after-hours delivery. It’s amazing.

Although I have a million memories, I have only one story about my father to share.  I only need one, because it tells you everything you need to know about him, about my mother, about the home I was raised in, and the marriage I was privileged to have as an example.

About thirty years ago, I lived in an apartment with terrible and expensive laundry facilities.  So even though I was no kid, I still drove to my parents’ house every other Sunday with a basket full of laundry.

My mother was a nurse, and she often worked on weekends.  So that Sunday, I put my clothes in the washer, and sat down with my father to watch the game. (I am quite knowledgable about sports, because even as a little kid, I watched games with my Dad.  I didn’t love sports; I loved sitting with him.)

Earlier that week, it had been my parents’ wedding anniversary.  It may have been their thirty-fifth.

My Dad told me that they had gone out to dinner to celebrate. Still single at thirty, I had yet to find a man I could stand for very long, never mind marry, and thirty-five years seemed like forever.

“Dad,” I asked, “After all these years, do you still find things to talk about?”

He smiled, and his whole face lit up with pleasure.

“Oh yes,”  he said enthusiastically.  “There’s no one I would rather talk to than your mother.  She’s the smartest person I know.”


Happy Birthday, Dad.


  1. What a sweet, sweet tribute to your dad. He sounds like a wonderful person. My father died when I was an infant, so I love reading stories about good dads!

    • I can’t imagine how hard it must be to grow up without a father. You can share mine today.

      • Thank you – he sounds like the type person you’d love to share with someone!

  2. We need more people like your dad in this world.

  3. I love reading about good dads, too. I was raised by my mom and a wretched step-father and did not meet my real father until I was a teenager. We have had a fractured relationship – going years without speaking. Your dad sounds like a gem and I’m glad you got to keep close to him through the years.

  4. That’s a lovely tribute to a wonderful man.

  5. Snoring Dog Studio

    That was beautiful. What an amazing, sensitive man. You are so fortunate to have had him in your life – and he still is! You carry much of his wisdom and optimism with you, I bet.

  6. This is a lovely tribute to your Dad. He and my father could have been twins, even down to the looking at the shoulder of the road while driving at night advice. My parents were deeply in love for the 58 years they were together. I sometimes think I’m still single because I’ve never found a man that was like my father.

    • For my parents it was 64 years. All of them loving.

  7. I am always fascinated by the memories we retain. My dad sang about ‘a lonely little petunia in an onion patch.’ Thank you for sharing these memories. He sounds like a truly wise guy.

  8. What a wonderful man! This post made me so happy. Thanks, Nancy!

  9. What a wonderful tribute to your dad. After picking up my brother from boy scout camp hours away from home and it was dark, I remember my dad giving your dad’s advice “When you drive at night, keep your eyes on the shoulder of the road. You’ll stay in your lane, and you won’t be blinded by the oncoming cars.” I was only about 10, but I have remembered that too all these years. What a privilege to have grown up with a remarkable team, your dad and your mother. I do love to hear and read these tributes to wonderful dads and moms. Great post.

  10. Christine Cooper

    Great Nanc – this story has me starting the day in tears. It is a truly lovely story. And even at the end when he was struggling with his thoughts, he was still able to crack a joke. A good reminder on how to live.

  11. A very smart guy and an exceptional dad. Thanks for sharing him with us : )

  12. Carol

    I really loved “Uncle Tom”. He was a wonderful man. It used to be so funny that Bill and he would wear similar clothes and that Bill’s humor was so much like his Uncle’s. The Dube family has been wonderful to me during my life. I even chose to be called “Meme” by my grandchildren because of the wonderful things I had heard about Uncle Tom’s Mother. I wished I had met Bill just a little sooner so I could have known her. We were all blessed, Nancy, to have known your Dad…..

    • My cousin Bill WAS just like my Dad. So sweet you wish all men could be just like them. I miss Bill a lot, Carol.

  13. What a wonderful post and tribute. Like a lot of other commenters, I got the same advice about keeping my eyes on the shoulder of the road. It still works, even though fewer people remember to dim their lights. Thanks for letting me have my morning coffee with your dad and by extension, with mine, who also passed one Christmas morning.

  14. what a beautiful post. You do look like your dad and he was a handsome man. This story made me tingle and it reminded me of how much I loved my dad. Thank you xx

  15. What a wonderful compliment your father gave to your mother, and you to him!

  16. JSD

    Such a wonderful post! There are so many of us who were fortunate to have fathers like yours…it’s like they all were raised in the same mold and with the same values. We are/were so lucky! Your words made me think again of how much I miss my dad. Thank you.

  17. Thank you for another though provoking post. It reminds me that perhaps it’s time to post a blog about the wisdom and love my Dad shared with me – I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it! Missing him so much, even after all these years, 17 years this November he moved on. But I still feel his encouraging and loving presence from time to time, when I really need it.

  18. Such a touching tribute to your father. Thank you for sharing it. It really touches a place in my heart that I can only imagine.

  19. Oh..this brought tears to my eyes..and joy to my heart. What a beautiful tribute to your dad!

  20. Very nice tribute to your dad, your parent’s marriage, and your relationship with your dad! Thanks for sharing that!

  21. You just pushed a button in me that is telling me to reflect (as you have) on all the good qualities and lessons my parents imparted to me. For me it seems their imperfections are what I have focused on….now it’s time for me to reconcile my differences with my mom and reflect on the goodness which my dad had. Thank you for the great push to do this…..

    • Wow. Thanks. What a compliment. You just made my day!

  22. Lovely, poignant. They sure did impart great advice. My dad’s 83– still telling me what to do at times. Thanks for sharing.

  23. so touching, thanks for sharing :)

  24. midsummerdreamsandwintertales

    Beautiful post.

  25. What an amazing guy. Ever think about writing a book? If you do, he (or some version of him) should be in it.

  26. What wonderful memories!

  27. I remember my Dad fondly as well. I can honestly say that he never was angry with any of his eleven children.

  28. Doc

    My dad will be 89 this week. Like yours, he served at the Battle of the Bulge and was wounded. He never really talks about the war- matter of fact, he never really talks about anything. I know bits and pieces of his life, and of my mother’s life. It’s not that they were bad parents, they just didn’t quite know how to relate to a son. I wouldn’t trade my parents for any others since, because or in spite of them, I am the man they made me. Sorry, this didn’t turn out to be the comment I planned on making. I think you wrote a great tribute to your dad and I’m glad you have good memories.

    • I’m glad if I brought back some good memories, or at least brought some perspective. I think most parents did the best they could.

  29. This made me teary-eyed because it made me think of my dad, too. He’s been gone for six years now. Since he was born in 1922, I think that our fathers were born about the same year. I can imagine how much you miss him, and I will be thinking of you during the coming holidays. Great post! BTW, I just added you to my blogroll so I can remember to check up on you more often. I love your writing and your perspective on life.

  30. Except for a number here and there, I could have written this post–though not as well–and I’m delighted for you that you had the same kind of dad I did. They stay with us forever.

    • I know how fortunate I am to have had the fantastic parents I did. Smart and funny and kind. Today would be my father’s 92nd birthday.


  1. Dad, The Annoying | notquiteold

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